Arkhom sees holiday travel dip
Fewer passengers are likely to use transport provided by government agencies during the Songkran holidays this year, according to Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.
The minister made the prediction Tuesday at a meeting involving all the heads of organisations under the Transport Ministry, to discuss safety measures for the upcoming holidays.
Around 14 million travellers used services laid on by government agencies last year.
According to Mr Arkhom, the expected drop in passengers will be a result of the government ending free bus and train services last November.
The free services, which lasted nine years, were halted to make way for welfare cards for low-income earners.
The cards enable those who earn less than 100,000 baht per year to use public welfare services under limited quotas, among other benefits.
In terms of transport, they give users three separate sums of 500 baht per month, with each sum being used for city buses, elevated and underground trains and national rail routes, respectively.
Mr Arkhom said the estimated number of people who will travel during Songkran remains unclear, now the welfare cards have been introduced.
According to the Transport Ministry, the number of passengers who used government services over the Songkran period last year (April 11-17), stood at around 14 million.
Talking about travel services this year he said the vast majority of people will use services directly supervised by the ministry, such as public buses, trains and boats.
An estimated 3.7 million will use privately-operated services, such as the BTS Skytrain and the BRT bus line, he added.
Mr Arkhom told Tuesday's meeting that all transport authorities must strictly follow safety measures during the holidays.
He said the usual, "7-7-7" policy, concerning safety precautions during the seven days before, during and after the Songkran holiday, will be observed.
Last year's highway toll included 390 deaths in 3,690 accidents, with a total of 3,808 injuries.
According to Mr Arkhom, the ministry's objective is to reduce overall deaths and injuries by at least 7% to 363 deaths next week.
"During this period, we will be enforcing strong safety precautions along 77 different routes across the country," he said.
"Most of these are roads notoriously known for being accident-prone."
Meanwhile, safety preparations have reportedly begun in some provinces.
Prachuap Khiri Khan police chief, Pol Maj Gen Pattana Phetsyanawin, said he has instructed all 16 local police stations in the province to kick-start measures to prevent accidents from April 12-16.
He said speed cameras will be installed on a 200km-stretch of Phetkasem Road from Hua Hin to Bang Saphan Noi district, along with extra signs informing the public to drive carefully.
The road passes through Prachuap Khiri Khan, en route to the Thai-Malaysian border in Songkhla. The speed limit is 90km/h.
Pol Maj Gen Pattana also said authorities will monitor planned celebrations comprising more than 100 people in the province. Checkpoints will be deployed near these areas, he added.
Prachuap Khiri Khan's transport office chief, Chutima Thaijiam-aree, said authorities will physically mark any public service or for-hire vehicle found to be substandard.